Trend Watch: Unrelated Layers of Necklaces

It’s not surprising to see a jewelry ad showing a women wearing far too much jewelry, as this is one method by which a jewelry designer can maximize in one visual image the number of pieces from a line. Most designers have a vision that is borne out by the cohesion of design readily seen in their collections. The jewelry is meant to work together so that a woman has many attractive options as to the amount and specific pieces of jewelry she chooses.


One recent trend takes a different approach to jewelry. This approach seems unfocused, almost haphazard in its arrangement of seemingly unrelated pieces, even when they are all produced by the same company. 



In the ad shown above, the styling of the jewelry makes this elegant woman look as though she had been accessorized with a surplus of jewelry by a young girl who likes to put on lots of sparkly stuff. The belt buckle is a prominent design element that needs to be considered in choosing jewelry. The belt itself doesn’t suit the model, who is very rectangular in body shape and has no defined waistline. Notice the three unrelated necklaces and the large earrings that coordinate with none of them. I would have the model remove all three necklaces to have a much more pulled-together look, allowing the earrings to support the dominant accessory of the belt buckle.


Wearing three unrelated necklaces seems to follow a formula published in the January 2009 issue of Lucky magazine.



In the first example from Lucky, seen above, the wide cobra-style necklace and the long strand of pearls are classic looks; the piece in the middle is itself an asymmetrical combination of unrelated elements. The middle necklace does little, if anything, to tie the three necklaces into any kind of cohesive look. The middle necklace detracts from the strong statement of the classic collar, and the pearls are so insignificant in size and color as to look like an afterthought.


Nevertheless, Lucky articulates a rationale for this styling of a “collar + pendant + pearls”: “The key to this posh-eclectic look is for each item to fall at a different length and in decreasing thickness.” 



I trace this style of three unrelated necklaces back to trendsetter Sarah Jessica Parker, who wore this type of layered look of necklaces at a premiere of the movie Sex and the City in April 2008. However, notice that all three of her necklaces have approximately the same amount of visual weight and impact. They effectively work together as a unit. Contrast the multi-strand long gold necklace with the thin strand of faux pearls in Lucky. Parker’s gold necklace is indeed of less thickness than the two upper necklaces, but the multiplicity of strands gives that piece enough presence to balance the other necklaces. 



The second example from Lucky is what is described as a “baroque-yet-ethereal pairing” of a “densely beaded ribbon with an intricately draped gold piece.” In this case, the floral design elements of both necklaces are of relatively the same size, with about the same amount of detail, and the spacing of the elements on each of the necklaces adds visual interest. I think this is a much more interesting and visually successful look than the first example from Lucky shown above.


The general principle of adornment is that one’s accessories should be of the same or similar level of refinement as the apparel and other accessories with which the jewelry is worn. Combining jewelry of different levels of refinement, and in particular mixing large, heavy pieces with delicate ones, generally detracts from all pieces as they fight with each other for visual dominance. Generally, the large piece is going to win and the pieces that don’t work with it are going to look at best like afterthoughts, at worst like mistakes.


Even when the pieces are of a similar level of refinement, there needs to be a focal point. In the second example from Lucky, the visual weight of the black beads draws the attention upward, and the longer strands complement the shorter ones. 



Contrast this next ad, which includes a variety of visually related pieces of the same level of refinement, but has no single focal point. There’s just too much happening. The triple strands of very long necklaces are attractive together, but the pendant necklace and the short choker-length chain distract from the longer pieces. Either of those necklaces on its own would be lovely, and the group of long necklaces provides another attractive option. Seeing all the pieces of varying lengths and styles worn together, however, just confuses the eye and detracts from the beauty of each of the necklaces.


In combining necklaces, use pieces of a similar level of refinement and design a look with a focal point for the most flattering and appealing effect. A little restraint can go a long way to create a chic look.

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